Theo Epstein, the p
resident of operations for the Chicago Cubs, gave a rousing Class Day speech at his alma mater Yale University in May that struck at the heart of finding success in the most difficult situations.
Speaking to the graduating class of 2017, Epstein recounted the feeling of desolation that he and his team felt going into extra innings in the final game of the 2016 World Series.
The Cubs hadn’t won a World Series since 1908, the longest post-season baseball drought in history. They were mounting a remarkable comeback after making up a three-games-to-1 deficit, and were four outs away from beating the Cleveland Indians. But then, the Indians tied the game after a spectacular play, and the game was stopped during a rain delay.
Cubs players huddled into a room, some were in tears. Epstein pointed to this as the moment that turned possible failure into success. He told students:
“It was an unusual sight. We hardly ever had meetings and never during a game. I inched closer to the door and saw Aroldis Chapman, the pitcher who had surrendered the tying home run, in tears. I lingered just long enough to hear a few sentences. ‘We would not even be here without you,’ catcher David Ross said as he embraced Chapman. ‘We are going to win this for you. We are going to win this for each other.'”
More players joined in, shouting encouragement. Perhaps this sounds like typical locker room encouragement, but Epstein said this was far different.
“During rain delays players typically come in off the field and head to their own lockers, sit there by themselves, change their wet jerseys, check their phones, think about what has gone right and wrong during the game, and become engrossed in their own worlds,” he said.
He pinpointed this moment as a choice the players made to turn their mindset around. And he said that all people have their “rain delay moment” where they can make the conscious choice to react positively rather than wallowing in failure.
“There will be times when everything you have been wanting, everything you have worked for, everything you have earned, everything you feel you deserve is snatched away in what seems like a personal and unfair blow,” he said. “But when these moments happen, and they will, will you be alone at your locker with your head down, lamenting, divvying up blame; or will you be shoulder to shoulder with your teammates, connected, with your heads up, giving and receiving support?”
You can watch the entire speech here:
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